Homeless orchestra musician loses all he owned in a car fire

Homeless orchestra musician loses all he owned in a car fire


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2016

A former orchestra violinist who had been reduced to living in his car in Portland, Oregon, lost everything when the vehicle caught fire. The man’s name is not known. First reports say he once played in the Oregon Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra.

violinist lives in car

The neighbour who posted the picture, says: The person helping him out says what he is most sad about is the loss of his jazz music collection and a few jazz music theory books he was reading.’

As soon as we have further details, let’s see what we can do to help out.

The episode calls to mind the tragedy of Anne Naysmith, a London concert pianist who wound up living in her car.


UPDATE: The homeless man has been tentatively identified as David Wright, a member of the Minnesota Orchestra for 28 years. See more here.


  • Observer says:

    A life example of why the musicians’ union struggles to establish and to preserve orch. musicians pensions, and why mental health care should be part of that package.

    Minnesota Orchestra has been on the front lines of orch. labor battles in the US for decades. I recommend Julie Ayers’ compelling book about the labor movement in the Minnesota Orch. “More Than Meets the Ear”. http://www.amazon.com/More-than-Meets-Ear-Musicians/dp/0929636430

    Julie is herself a violinist with the orch. I’m sure she would be interested to read about Mr. Wright’s case.

  • Beth Almore says:

    Please keep us apprised of ways we can help – thanks!

  • Carl Ellenberger says:

    This sad story, like that of Annie Naysmith, the bag lady of Chiswick, was the basis of a new film starring Maggie Smith, “The Lady in the Van.” I saw it at the Palm Springs Festival a few weeks ago.

  • Anon says:

    Oh, boy. The plot really thickens here. David Wright was at the forefront of Minnesota Orchestra’s labor battles – he is interviewed in this article during the lockout of 2013.

    He explains that as a career musician and 29 year veteran of the Minnesota Orch. he was obliged to retire early and take a big cut in his pension. His story and picture are here, just scroll down thru the article.


    David Wright is a direct casualty of Minnesota’s legendary labor issues. He’s a war hero, in my book.

    • Gerhard says:

      The article quotes him as saying: “I heard from [MOA board member] Jim Davis last year, and I knew that this was not going to go well, so I left and took a severely reduced pension, with a cut of 11 percent.” This doesn’t seem to support your claim that he was “obliged to retire early”. But I’m ready to suppose that he is in fact a casualty of management actions, one way or another. Is there a way to send him a little help?

  • Anon says:

    This is very dramatic. Reading further about David Wright it’s revealed that he is one of the 24 Minnesota Orchestra musicians lost during the 2013 lockout.

    The loss was documented in the striking “Ghost Orchestra” photo here. The names of the 24 ghosts are listed and heis one of them.

    The AFM should intervene. The Minnesota Orchestra should step up for him in his time of need. He is homeless because of them.

  • MacroV says:

    The article indicates he retired BEFORE the lockout, after sensing things weren’t going to end well. Maybe figured he’d be better off with the pension income during an indefinite lockout than remaining in the orchestra and receiving none. Maybe a rational financial decision, maybe not.

    If he played in the Minnesota Orchestra for 28 years, even with an 11 percent reduction he’d presumably be earning enough of a pension (even now) to keep a roof over his head. And if he’s 62 he can start to collect Social Security.

    The lockout was outrageous, but it seems a bit of an exaggeration to say he’s homeless because of it. There’s more to the story, I imagine, but anyone who knows will probably have the decency to protect the man’s privacy and not talk about it here.

  • Gerhard says:

    A short while ago I had posted a comment here. Apparently the blog owner didn’t like it, and now it is gone. I notice that some partial censoring is marked here as “[redacted]”. May I suggest that the complete removal of a post is marked in a similar way. While I don’t question the blog owner’s right to control what is posted on his blog, I think fairness demands that any deletion should be marked. Thank you.

    • Gerhard says:

      It seems to have been a technical problem in this case, because my initial post is back now. Anyway, indepently of this I do think the marking of deletions should be standard.